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Bucking the National Trend: Tennessee Posts June Sports Betting Increases

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Bucking the National Trend: Tennessee Posts June Sports Betting Increases
Nashville Superspeedway on June 20, 2021 in Lebanon, Tennessee. Logan Riely/Getty Images/AFP

By now, the pattern of industry-wide legal summer sports betting slowdowns is well established in the US. All participating states that have reported their June legal sports betting figures so far have shown declines… until Tennessee on Wednesday. The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL), which is in charge of licensing and regulating online sports betting in the state, for the time being at least, is reporting a Tennessee uptick, which follows three straight months of declines.

Tennessee runs one of the only mobile-only legal sports betting platforms in the nation. It has been a decent overall market since launching in November. But after three straight down-months and a May betting total that represented the lowest yet for the relatively new betting state, June’s numbers were certainly a welcome sign.

A Peek at the Figures

After three months of slumping figures in Tennessee and a miserable precedent set by all of the other states that have reported their June sports betting numbers already, most in Tennessee were expecting a fourth straight month of sports betting activity declines.

But in a bit of a surprise, the Tennessee Education Lottery reported a $174.5 million June sports betting handle which represents an unforeseen 8% increase from May’s $160.9 million wagering handle. May was the lowest total that Tennessee recorded since launch of their legal sports betting scene in November. June’s total was also about $30 million short of the $209.5 million record handle that Tennessee sportsbooks took in during March.

The increase in handle led to an uptick in legal sports betting revenues in Tennessee as well. About $16 million was made by the state’s sportsbooks in June, leading to about $3.2 million in taxes contributed to Tennessee state and local coffers. That number is up from $2.7 million in May.

Changes are Coming

Tennessee, right from the outset of their legal sports betting launch has been a tad controversial. Firstly, the state opted for a lottery model, one that has been underwhelming in states like Oregon and Washington DC. But that model is about to change with the Sports Wagering Advisory Council taking over from the Tennessee Education Lottery.

The SWAC will hopefully bring with it a more competitive, traditional regulatory body that has been successful in all of the top-10 bet-friendly states in the country.

Other issues include a mandatory 10% hold required in the state and an industry-unfriendly 20% tax rate for legal sports betting. There was also the suspension of Action 24/7 that the TEL had to deal with. Action 24/7 still is the only sportsbook so far to experience sanctions in any jurisdiction in the country.

The Sports Wagering Advisory Council will immediately see three more betting providers being added to the wagering family in the state, joining WynnBET, the two DFS giants, BetMGM, Action 24/7, TwinSpires and William Hill. Competition has been a good thing around the country – adding three top-tier providers will hopefully provide a spark for the market there- just in time for the juggernaut NFL season.

The SWAC will also be tasked with reviewing all of the controversial policies of the Lottery including the 10% hold and the way the state hands out licenses. Changes could reasonably be coming there as well.

Success

The Tennessee legal sports betting industry has to be considered a success so far. Sportsbooks in the state have managed to take in $1.4 billion in their seven months of operation and they have yet to experience a whole NFL season, something they will enjoy starting September 9.

With more competition slated to come on board in the state in the next couple of months and a regulatory body that promises more accountability and a more successful model for the state, Tennessee’s mobile-only platform looks to be on a fine footing in the second half of its first year of service.

All eyes will be on the Sports Wagering Advisory Council to see if they indeed can make a positive change to the Tennessee scene.